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Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Oilers need a POHO?

In an interview on my radio show three weeks ago Bob Nicholson said he was only looking for a GM at this time. He reiterated that at his end-of-season press conference this past Monday. Earlier today Southampton Football Club announced Ralph Krueger’s contract as Chairman of their club would not be extended, and many in Oilersnation wondered if Krueger would be a fit for the Oilers.

Krueger seems more set on being in management than behind a bench as a coach. In an interview with Pierre Lebrun, Krueger outlined what he feels are his strengths.

“You can never say never about coaching,” said Krueger. “But I really enjoy the growth of actually being in a role where you hire the best possible people, so that everybody you bring into an organization is actually better than you at what they do,’’ Krueger said. “That kind of became my goal here in Southampton. I think just the driving of a culture in a professional sports organization has become really my new passion and I could see bringing that back into North America someday. I really think that we do some things in the Premier League and in global football that are unique and different. And I think if you amalgamated and mixed the two together, it could be pretty powerful for an organization.’’

I don’t think Krueger has the hockey scouting background to be a GM, but he could qualify as a President of Hockey Operations.

The question is: do the Oilers need a POHO?

I think because the Oilers have endured so much losing many feel a POHO is a necessity. I don’t see it that way.

The vast majority of NHL teams don’t have one, and I’ve seen nothing that suggests having one will increase an organization’s chances of winning.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are the only two teams with one in Brendan Shanahan and John Davidson.

The Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers have presidents in Cam Neely, Luc Robitaille and Glen Sather. Sather is stepping down and they are looking for a replacement.

The other 26 organizations don’t have someone in the role solely as a POHO or president, so I’m not sold it is necessary.

I’d rather the Edmonton Oilers hire a good GM and let him fill out his staff accordingly.

A POHO might not hurt, but will it really help? It depends whom they hire.

NICHOLSON…

Right now I sense many don’t have faith that Bob Nicholson is the right guy to hire the GM. It is fair to question if he will make a better hire than his first one in Peter Chiarelli. No question the lack of a hiring process and the subsequent hiring of Chiarelli did not work out very well. The results back it up.

But that doesn’t mean Nicholson can’t learn from that mistake. The basis for any of us to improve in our job is how we learn from our mistakes.

In this case, it isn’t just Nicholson who needs to learn.

Owner Daryl Katz needs to look at how his hockey operations has been run and recognize their approach and strategy has failed.

This is non-negotiable. Anyone trying to say the Oilers did things well, on the hockey operations side, is fooling themselves. They haven’t.

Since Katz took ownership, in the summer of 2008, the Oilers have been the worst team in the NHL.

In those eleven seasons, the Oilers made the playoffs once, but they are far and away the worst on-ice team we’ve seen in a long time.

They have 787 points. The next closest teams are Colorado (876), Arizona (882), Florida (895) and Toronto (898). Every team but two has more than 100 points than the Oilers since 2009.

The top teams are:

Washington: 1,123 points
Pittsburgh: 1,108
Boston: 1,094
San Jose: 1,086
Chicago: 1,072
St.Louis: 1,057
Anaheim: 1,039
Nashville: 1,031
Tampa Bay 1,014
New York Rangers: 1,007

It is stunning how far from competitive the Oilers have been during Katz’ tenure as owner. The business side of the Oilers has done very well. The building has been sold out. Katz got a new arena built, and it was a needed start to making Edmonton’s downtown more populated. There is a long way to go in that regard, but the business side of the Oilers has been successful.

Katz has to be wondering how his team is so bad, even though he spends close to the salary cap every season. He kept his word he would make the Oilers financially competitive, but it hasn’t translated to on-ice competitiveness and that must change.

The approach, style and vision of the management group has not worked. They’ve had eight coaches and three general managers since Katz took over.

Changing people and voices hasn’t led to more success. Arguably, it has created more failure considering that even with two 100-point players this season the Oilers still couldn’t muster 80 points.

The core values and vision of hockey operations has not led to success. It must change.

And as far as Krueger goes, I’m not sure he has any more experience than Bob Nicholson. If they want to hire a POHO, I’d look for one with more experience. No doubt Krueger is a better orator than Nicholson, but that isn’t reason enough for me to hire him.

I don’t believe the Oilers need a POHO to change the vision and direction of the organization. Just do a thorough GM search, which by the sounds of it they are, and then hire the best candidate and give him the power to create his vision with his people. The right candidate will outline this in his interviews and make it clear where there will be changes. Nicholson, and more specifically Katz, must recognize significant change is needed. What they’ve been doing hasn’t worked.

A POHO might help, but I don’t see it being a necessity, and if I was Katz I’d put the money it would cost to pay a POHO and use it towards an innovative and competent analytics team and hiring more amateur and pro scouts.

The Oilers need more people doing more work at the ground level and in the trenches, rather than pay one man a huge salary to oversee everything.

PARTING SHOTS…

One name I keep hearing regarding the GM job is Mark Hunter. He has scouted for years, he was an assistant GM for the Maple Leafs for a few seasons and then for a short three-month period in 2015 he and Kyle Dubas were co-interim GM for the Leafs until they hired Lou Lamoriello.

I won’t be surprised if he is on the short-list of men who get a second interview.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • OilCan2

    I say get Ralph in as POHO. He led the Swiss hockey program into respectability. He can make sure the next steps in building a winning Oilers team are taken. That would include (as Jason said) a proper analytics group, better pro scouting, and even improving on decent drafting.

  • Drinking my Oilers problems away...

    Yes they do cause someone who’s not part of the stupid past they are stuck in needs to save these idiots from themselves and Bobby Burger.

  • In such a broken, awfully-run organization with soo much inner-politics I think a POHO would help tremendously. This organization is soo focused on things other then hockey that it’s pathetic. A POHO who’ll draw the line in the sand with Katz, a VPOHO who knows his stuff, a new GM who’s seen how to build a team, and Hitch in some advisor role. The hockey room needs to completely be re-built with as many new faces and needs the best people available

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Yes they need a POHO and it needs to be someone not in the current oIlers Mgmt, and MacT needs to be booted from Vice POHO. I still believe the OBC has way way too much say in what goes on and still having MacT involved just reinforces that belief.

    The OBC needs to be cleaned out, while they say KLowe doesnt have nay sway over hockey Ops I dont buy that, you would have to be living in Fantasy Island to believe he has no sway, I think he is weilding just as much power without an official title in Hockey Ops.

    Hockey Ops is a total mess right now, its like the left hand doesnt know what the right is doing, and the mess we are in right now tells me there is way too much just say from above as to what happens on the ice. Things are a mess, we have not a lot of cap space players to sign and contracts we need to get rid of and we still have to aquire players and they have to decide to do figure out the managment on down in the off ice staff and then figure out the coaching staff and what to do…and the longer Bob takes with all this its going to be a problem, the fact that he has been sitting on his hands and done nothing is unbelievable, I know they could have talked to people they were looking at who had no obligation to teams, and then asked to get permission to talk to those they have an intrest in after the playoffs/draft but, to sit idle and do nothing worries me that while they say that changes are coming, they dont mean real changes, just some to make it look like they did something

  • Oilers70

    Gregor it took you 15 years to get off the Oilers bandwagon and how smart the management is…..

    It’s time for a change and bring in some professional management, so keep writing. Just be relentless, not puppets like Jones and Matheson.

    • rnj

      Remember when fans went as far as getting a billboard and we were all told over and over by basically everyone that the OBC wasn’t the problem?

      Don’t think any other fan base has ever been so frustrated. Don’t think any other management group has been so clueless that fans have a better idea than they do to the point of putting up their own money for advertising of this fact. Pathetic

  • Oilman99

    Bring in a POHO ASAP, and punt Bobbie Nick who is doddling around getting nothing accomplished. They need get a GM quickly, so that he still has some viable options available for coach before they are all swept up by other teams. If Mark Hunter was being considered I think they would have already made a move.

  • RJ

    The issue for fans is that we can speculate all we want, but unless we’ve been behind closed doors, we don’t know the dynamics of what happens in upper management.

    Like the story that Oilers scouts didn’t want Yak, but Katz did. That there are “red wine summits” where the OBC hold court. (And on and on..)

    Point being, a POHO might be exactly what they need to improve the team. He could bring in folks who work in sports science, who work in advanced analytics. If he’s experienced, then he should have quality people he could bring with him.

    But if Katz is a meddling owner (which seems at least possible), then it has to be someone who can push back on Katz if he tries to meddle. I don’t see a GM doing that, but someone needs to.

  • toprightcorner

    I think it is imperative that the Oilers hire a POHO. You cannot look at the other teams and let that be the deciding factor as to whether or not you need a POHO becaseu the Oilers are more dysfunctional than every team except for Ottawa.

    There is so much to fix in Oilers management that if a single GM was tasked that job, it would spread him too thin and it would mean less focus on improving the actual team. I want the GM focusing on the team, pro scouting and amateur scouting for the first 2-3 years. Those are the most important areas in regards to improving the team, keeping the fans and making money for Katz.

    the POHO should build the analytics department and the sports science departments. The GM doesn’t need to build those departments, he just has to implement what they produce. The POHO can be the buffer between those departments and the GM to prevent any confrontations like that happened between Dellow and Chiarelli and other managers. The POHO can also focus on the Oil Kings and for the first year or two, can focus on the Condors.

    I think Kruger is the perfect POHO because he is all about building a cohesive working culture. He specializes in communication and won’t put up with any B.S. I don’t think being away from hockey for 5 years is a big deal for a POHO as they are more about managing the people and less about the day to day hockey functions.

    The biggest issue with Nicholson and Chiarelli was the lack of accountability and keeping Chia on track. Chia may have had a great plan to improve the Oilers but he had no ability to implement that plan. Chia dumped analytics, didn’t communicate, was locked in his bubble, didn’t necessarily listen to his management team. Nicholson was too involved in the OEG side that he could not oversee and ensure the GM was following the plan and doing what was best for the team. Nicholson was too disconnected and I am sure things were a lot worse internally than he even realized.

    Nicholson is Katz man, then it should be just the OEG business side and not the hockey side, you can’t do both. I am not saying the new GM needs a babysitter, but the Oilers cannot afford to have another GM veer off course.

    As dysfunctional as the Oilers are right now, failing to hire a POHO is a huge risk that they should not take.

    • Axe

      Very well said.. Unless, like some other commented above, u r bringing in Yzerman as a GM then u need a POHO. This organization and its front office are not allowed the benefit of the doubt after the Chiarelli debacle (highlighted by the koskinen re sign situation).

  • Rick Stroppel

    The Oilers already have a POHO, his name is Bob Nicholson, and he should be fired. The Oilers website says that Nicholson is “Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of OEG”. He is shown directly below Katz. The other two “Vice Chairmen” are Wayne Gretzky and Kevin Lowe. But they keep telling us those two have nothing to do with NHL hockey decisions. So Nicholson is clearly in charge, HE IS RESPONSIBLE for the NHL team. What difference does it make whether you call him “POHO” or “President” or something else? Nicholson is in charge.

    What has Nicholson accomplished since he arrived here five years ago? Beginning in 2010, the Oilers drafted 1-1-1-7-4-1 overall in the draft. No team in the history of major North American sports franchises has had such a lucky run in drafts…and it ended with Connor McDavid, best player since Crosby, maybe since Gretzky. And the Oilers have an owner willing to spend up to the salary cap, and hordes of loyal and passionate fans. What have Nicholson and his friends done with that? Keep in mind, Nicholson is IN CHARGE, so if he thought anybody in the OBC was dead weight in the last five years, he could have gone to Katz and said “we gotta get rid of these guys”. In five season since Nicholson arrived, Oilers have the 28th best regular season record (ahead of Arizona and Buffalo). One playoff appearance, one series win.

    Please, somebody help me, why does Nicholson still have a job with the Oilers organization?

  • polarcap

    Kruger represents the perfect choice for fans concerned about contrary or independent voices in the room. His experience as a futurist in a multi sport environment plus success in motivating serious underdogs to perform beyond what they believe was achievable makes him a perfect candidate. MacT biggest mistake was dumping RK for DE with no basis other than he was taken with Dallas. Putting RK in the room would make those part of that decision a little edgy.

    • Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader

      Katz looks at the business side of the Oilers humming along and takes pride that he’s given the OBC employment in perpetuity. I don’t believe that he cares about anything beyond that.

  • justDOit

    Isn’t Krueger credited with getting the Swiss national hockey program on track and becoming competitive?

    That’s big PoHO experience right there. And that he would be able to fire MacT is just so delicious!

  • TKB2677

    I’d bring Kruger in just to see if he can use his magic on Lucic. The year he was coach, he was able to make Yakupov look like a real NHL player. As soon as he was gone, Yak sucked. Can’t hurt.

    • Spydyr

      Unless he could wave a magic wand and make Lucic three steps faster there is no magical cure for what Lucic is at this point in his career. A vastly overpaid fourth line mucker.

  • Ted

    Kreuger is a class act! I’d hire him! That man gets it, not like some think they get it! Image imagining that we had hockey people in the office! Oh to imagine!!

  • hagar

    Would a poho even have the power to fire klowe and such?
    Klowe create that position on the Oilers when everyone was screaming for him to be fired as gm.
    I seriously doubt a new poho would have the power to clear out the old group.

    • Oscar

      What up with the secrecy around McD’s injury … what’s the exact injury … is this all part of the improved communication that Bobby Burger promised as recently as his last presser a mere few days ago … ?

      When nothing changes with this hapless organization, nothing changes, hey …

    • Man is it frustrating watching Eberle right now. Engaged and flying around, An offensive threat. You know the east media is going to “why did Edmonton let him go “ if they go a round or two. I think we let him go at the wrong time. His value was at a crazy low level. A trend that has us where we are.

      The Journal writes an article that the win in Calgary cost us in lottery draft?? That’s is about as bad as the “what was Conner doing going to the net so hard” from Calgary fans?”.

  • CMG30

    The Oilers need a POHO for the sole purpose of running interference between the OBC an whomever becomes the new GM. Katz seems to want these guys around so somebody with sense needs to keep them quarantined…

  • What the

    Ebs in the blue paint for his third point in the NYI vs Pit series. Then roughs it up after the goal. Good to see him taking advantage of only his second chance in the post season.

    • fasteddy

      I wouldn’t mind a strong personality in that role…Brian Burke. I know he’s mostly a bumbling media hog, but what’s wrong with that? This team needs someone willing to answer tough questions if they are serious about being more transparent. He and Treliving built a nice team in Cgy. Maybe he and Hunter could do similar in Oil Country. Bob can be whatever it is he is still.

    • hagar

      It’s a fair point, pretty sure it will be fairly obvious if it will work like that when they announce who it is.
      The odds say it will be a suspect decision, and not some super stud businessman in hockey, that wouldn’t take guff from above.

  • Total Points

    It doesn’t matter who the Oilers hire for GM or POHO or scout or backup goalie or 1st pair defense or first line winger because as long as the OBC are still here nothing will work.

    It is as simple as that.

    So it is pointless to debate the issue if Ralph should come here or not. The total focus of the media, season ticket holders, tier 2 fans, etc, etc should be on the restructure of senior management.

    Everything else is nice to debate but we all know will accomplish nothing

  • camdog

    Coffey earning 500,000 per season as skills coach as reported by Gregor. How much does Wayne get? The Old Boys are eating budget that should be directed to Hockey Operations – scouting. This isn’t PC fiscal mismanagement….Cleaning up the mess isn’t a high priority yet..

    • Oscar

      The fascinating part is it doesn’t appear the hapless Oilers are handicapped by any type of budget … they are all getting rich while putting it to their fans … astounding, yes …

  • What the

    Ooops. After the unfortunate article today in the Journal, Katz has just authorized, by Skype, Craig MacTavish to pull Terry Jones media access pass to the OEG.

    It’s been a great run Terry!

  • godot10

    6 years running a Premier League team is far more qualification than Bob Nicholson has. Bigger more competitive league where it is far more challenging to operate on and off the field.

  • Derkus the circus

    Common sense says bobby burger isnt hiring a GM that has autonomy to get rid of him and hire his own POHO. So unless he steps back on his own the guy who thought the koskinen deal was a good idea is still there. A monkey could build a Canadian olympic team. Hell he could build 2 teams. Thats not qualification to head up an nhl team.